Books in Print

independent Australian bookselling since 1988

25 Feb 2016

BiP eNews

A child’s first, and usually unwitting, introduction to art is through the picture books we adults share with them. Yes, the words that form a story are important but often the illustrator is quietly overlooked, the unsung hero of the pairing. Children love the pictures; pictures help them to learn how words and stories work. Pictures can guide a child’s imagination, interpreting and suggesting more than words alone, prompting young minds to take full flight.

Mostly, children’s books drip with bright colour, but when the story is right, a subtler approach can be just as powerful. Here are three beautiful new picture books that are predominantly black and white. Who says that picture books must shout so loudly from their pages?

Recommended for 3+
Dog on a Train
by Kate Prendergast
Feb 2016 | Walker Books | $24.99hb

Boy is late for his train. Rushing out of the house, he drops his favourite red and white striped hat. Dog picks it up, but will Dog be able to find Boy in time? Successful wordless picture books are rare beasts; popular with educators who have time to sit with students and explore themes and ideas, but much harder to share with a child before bed. Dog on a Train is an exception – joyful layers of meaning with a sweet but simple to follow visual narrative that animal lovers will adore. Great for encouraging your child to develop their own words.

Recommended for 4+
Lenny and Lucy
by Philip C. Stead & Erin E. Stead (illu)
Feb 2016 | Allen & Unwin | $24.99hb

Peter, his father and Harold the dog pile all their worldly possessions on to roof of their car and drive from one side of the woods to the other. Peter is unsure about the new house, unsure about the woods that lie between the old place and the new. With Harold’s help, Peter makes Lenny and Lucy stand guard – then he meets Millie who, armed with a bag of marshmallows, really helps Harold and Peter to feel at home. Touches of colour bring these stunning black and white illustrations to life.

Highly recommended for 3+
Little One
Jo Weaver
Feb 2016 | Hodder | $24.99hb

Sometimes a picture book hits me right in the solar plexus, and Little One got me straight away! This spare, subtle, engaging, and most importantly gentle story of a baby bear and her mother’s first year out in the wide world post-hibernation is… well, it’s just beautiful. It would make a superb gift for a new mum, but equally is a special book to share with any child before bed. Weaver’s purely black and white chalk drawings say so much, and the text leaves space for lots of wondering.

BiP staff reviews by Lucinda

Highly recommended for 11+
Hour of the Bees
Lindsay Eagar
March 2016 | Candlewick Press | $16.95pb

Hour of the Bees is one of those rare and special books that that stays with you long after you put it down. When 12 year old Carol discovers that she won’t be spending the summer holidays with her friends as she had hoped, but joining her family to help her Grandfather move into a nursing home, she is not happy. She has never met her Grandfather, Serge, who lives on a ranch in New Mexico. He has dementia and at first Carol is a little afraid of him but she is soon drawn into his world through his magical stories of a village with a special healing tree, a green glass lake and the bees that will hopefully come back and end the hundred year drought. Along the way Carol learns about her family history and why her Grandfather is so reluctant to move from his home.

I loved the magic realism and the setting of New Mexico with its heat and space and wildness provides a wonderful backdrop to this beautiful story about love, family and cultural identity.

BiP staff review by Cathy

Recommended for 15+
My Sister Rosa
Justine Larbalestier
Feb 2016 | Allen & Unwin | $19.99pb

When we meet Che, he and his family are winging their way to New York City from Australia. This is an important move for Che's parents who are hoping to get a new business off the ground. Che's concerns are typically teenage related; find a new gym so he can continue his boxing, and maybe meet a girl! But Che also has his 10 year old sister to contend with. Sweet and pretty Rosa, with a smile that melts hearts, only he knows the truth. Rosa may look like an angel, but she is a manipulator and a schemer, a true sociopath and she tells him all her secrets. When Che's parents fail to take his concerns seriously, he must be extra vigilant.

Che is a wonderfully drawn character, full of depth and sensitivity and I thoroughly enjoyed reading My Sister Rosa. Suitable for boy and girl readers 15+ as it contains some sexual content.
BiP staff review by Karen